|Length||17.3 mi (27.8 km)|
|Location||Cornwall, England, United Kingdom|
|Use||Hiking, Cycling, Horseriding|
The Camel Trail is a multi-purpose rail trail in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom, that provides a recreational route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. The trail is flat (and suitable for disabled access); running from Padstow to Wenford Bridge via Wadebridge and Bodmin, it is 17.3 miles (27.8 km) long and used by an estimated 400,000 users each year generating an income of approximately £3 million a year.
The trail is managed and maintained by Cornwall Council.
The trail follows the paths of two former rail lines: a section of the North Cornwall Railway between Padstow and Wadebridge and most of the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway from Wadebridge to Wenford Bridge, along with a short branch from that line to Bodmin. The Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway was originally built at a cost of £35,000 following a study commissioned in 1831 by local landowner Sir William Molesworth of Pencarrow. The line was intended to carry sand from the Camel estuary to inland farms for use as fertiliser. In the 1840s, England's railway network expanded towards Bodmin. The London and South Western Railway purchased the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway in 1846 and intended to connect it to the rest of the system by a new line through North Cornwall. The line from Halwill reached Wadebridge in June 1895 and then Padstow in March 1899.
Later the railway was used to ship slate and china clay from inland quarries to ships in Padstow and also transport fish landed in Padstow inland to London and other cities. When both quarrying and fishing died off, the railway lost most of its traffic. The last passenger train was in 1967, freight finally ceased in 1983, when a need to invest in new track forced closure of the line.
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The railway was built so that the trains would not have any steep inclines or sharp turns. It is these characteristics which make it an excellent cycle trail. Since the trail has been open to the public cycle hire shops, cafes and other attractions have sprung up to cater for the traffic. Many families take their young children to the trail to allow them to become more confident cyclists in a traffic free environment. The local cycle hire shops have a wide range of tag-alongs or buggies to allow very young children to be safely transported behind their parents. Only a small part of the trail, through Wadebridge, is on roads and shared with normal traffic.
Car parking at Padstow, Wadebridge and Poley's Bridge allow the trail to be broken into 5-mile (8 km) sections giving an easy 10-mile (16 km) round trip back to your starting point with a break in Wadebridge or Padstow for food, drink, shopping and rest.
There were considerable efforts in the 1990s to convert the northern part of the cycleway back into a railway, in order to allow it to carry china clay traffic again, but this was rejected, on the grounds that the cycleway provides more benefits to the local community than removing heavy lorries from the local narrow winding roads, many of which have had to be converted to one-way operation in order to allow them to carry the lorry traffic.
The Bodmin and Wenford Railway, a heritage line, have a long term aim to extend their operations along the former way of the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway between Boscarne Junction and Wadebridge (Guineaport), alongside the Camel Trail.
Extension to the trail
In 2006 two extensions to the trail were completed. The first was from Scarlett’s Well car park in Bodmin up into the town. The second was from Pooleys Bridge near St Breward to Wenfordbridge through the old clay dries. The second extension was made possible by Imerys donating the land.
- North Cornwall District Council (June 2003). "North Cornwall Matters - Partnership Improves The Trail" (PDF). North Cornwall Matters. North Cornwall District Council. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-23. Retrieved 2007-10-11.